November 9, 2015

a small list of good things...

a small list of good things. |
Well, hello there! I do exist. I've just been…well, you know. Staying remarkably busy with everything under the sun. The good part? Going from one child to two has been an easier transition in many ways. (I contribute much of this to the actually-rather-awesome four year age gap between the girls. More on this in a future post that I've been writing in my head for months…) And the possibly less-than-good but tolerable part? I just have felt it necessary to cut a few things from my to-dos. Namely, writing and many other internetty things.

I must say, it's rather freeing to only turn on our actual computer a few times a week. (Let's just not talk about the cobwebs covering my email inbox. It's slightly terrifying.)

In any case, I thought I'd check in quickly and share a few good things from the past couple months!

+ I've been on a from-scratch kick lately, and here are a couple recipes I've tried that I totally recommend: Slow Cooker Black Beans via Cafe Johnsonia, Slow Cooker Refried Beans via Queen Bee Coupons. Is there anything else I should be making in my slow cooker that I've somehow been missing my entire adult life? Do tell.

+ Podcasts are kind of my jam. They're like a tiny (non)guilty pleasure that I look forward to indulging in every day at some point. (We don't have a dishwasher at the new place, so I do a fair amount of dish-cleaning these days. Totally tolerable with a good podcast keeping me company.) There are two I just started listening to that I adore: Sorta Awesome and The Popcast. Megan, the host of Sorta Awesome, is such a gem and I love that they cover everything from fluff to harder topics like anxiety—always making it feel like a conversation with your best friend. The Popcast can be a wee bit brash, but totally entertaining, and the hosts have actually make me more interested in pop culture (something that has, in recent years, given me hives). Give them a listen! You may start hand washing your dishes even though you have a dishwasher to give yourself more podcast time. Fair warning.

+ I purchased hexagon shelves from this shop for my birthday, and they make me happy every time I look at them. I'm excited to get them all prettied with Christmas decorations.

+ This month, I have a hair appointment to get highlights for the first time in years. Years! I am so excited that I almost can't physically handle my emotions. So excited, you guys.

+ This month, ePantry is giving a $10 credit and a free Grove Collaborative soy candle to all new customers, so I had to mention this deal, as I adore them so. I still use this service monthly and love it to pieces. You can get as much or as little (or nothing at all) each month, and I love that they often send you discounts for products via email. Totally recommend! You can sign up here. (And be sure to share you own referral link with others if you love it as much as I do, and you'll earn credits toward future orders, too!)

+ This song from The Sweeplings makes me all swoony. Fun fact: As a teenager, I did theatre with Cami Bradley for years, so it's wonderful and a little crazy (in the best way) to see what she's done with her amazing voice and overall adorableness.

— Further reading: more small lists of good things

Affiliate links included in this post; view my disclosure policy here.

September 1, 2015

Cora's birth announcements (and an ode to Shutterfly freebies)...

newborn announcements |
I'm pretty much in love with the birth announcements I made for Cora, so I had to share them here! (The hope is, of course, that everyone who is receiving one in the mail and also reads my blog has already received theirs.) In any case, I seriously adore the design I found over on Shutterfly and wanted to share them with you!

For some reason, taking a photo of a photo on a card has made the coloring a bit funny on Cora's face, but in person the cards are absolute perfection.

newborn announcements |
I tried doing a Pinterest-y newborn photo shoot with Cora a couple times, but the photos did not turn out well at all. (I shake my fist at you, Pinterest!) I ended up snapping this photo while she was napping during one her first couple weeks at home, and somehow it just felt perfect for the announcement. Her button nose gives me heart-eyes for days.

newborn announcements | yourwishcake.comnewborn announcements |
I couldn't wait to send these out to some of our friends and family, and—newborn or not—may have stayed up too late addressing envelopes a couple nights in order to do so. (It's probably weird, the level of joy I experience while addressing envelopes. Can I get paid to do that sort of thing? Someone needs to invent that job. And then hire me.)

Although I am an affiliate for Shutterfly, I purchased these announcements myself (I was definitely grateful to have a $20 promo code I received elsewhere and was saving for a rainy day, because that definitely offset the price a bit). I've become pretty good at combining promo codes and discounts in order to get my order to the lowest price possible, though—and always use either my Ebates or Swagbucks account to get to the Shutterfly website in order to get a bit of cash back.

Have I mentioned I'm oddly obsessive when it comes to finding ways to not pay full price for things? It's an issue. A beautiful, beautiful issue.

In addition to these announcements, I was able to add a couple freebies to my order—but I can't show them and all their adorableness to you here because they are being saved to use as Christmas gifts for people who most certainly will see this post. (Sorry!) However, I thought I'd share how I've been able to snag so many Shutterfly freebies over the past couple years. I've been able to get notepads, reusable shopping bags, several photo books, and a few other items for free—usually just paying for shipping, unless I'm adding them to an order for which I was able to qualify for free shopping. I definitely get more for free than I ever have paid for out of my own pocket! 

See below for a some tips:

1. I'm not sure if this is a regional thing or not, but I receive many offers for free Shutterfly items on the little catalina coupons that print out with my receipts after shopping at Vons (or, if you're in a different part of the country, Safeway!). I've received codes for free photo books, placemats, mouse pads, and reusable shopping bags this way.

2. About once every quarter or so, Kelloggs Family Rewards will send me a promo code for something in one of their promotional emails. I would have unsubscribed from these emails ages ago, but I don't want to miss out on these promos! I typically delete all their other emails (sorry, Kelloggs) but they will usually mention the free item in the email subject line when they are offering one. You can sign up for this program here.

3. Although I planned to exclusively breastfeed, I signed up for Enfamil Family Beginnings because they offered a free photo book promo code after I registered. (Clearly, anyone can sign up for this, and I'm assuming this promotion is still available! Correct me if I'm wrong…) You can sign up here.

4. There are a few deal blogs I follow regularly that are sure to mention when Shutterfly has free item promotions going on. A couple of my favorites are Money Saving Mom and Freebie Shark.

5. I discovered while ordering these announcements that Shutterfly actually has a Special Offers tab on their main page where you can often find codes for free items, as well as any other discount codes they are currently featuring. They recently had a promo where any customer could select one free item (I believe you could choose from a mouse pad, notepad and something else I totally forgot). Although this promotion has expired, here are a couple that are currently live! (Please note you'll have to pay shipping for these freebies, unless otherwise noted.)

  — One free card of your choice with code CARD4U. (exp. 9/21/15)
  — If you register as a new customer, you'll receive 50 free prints. (exp. one month after signing up)

Hope this helps some of you out! (And perhaps Cora's button nose has given you some heart-eyes, as well.)

Affiliate links included in this post; view my disclosure policy here.

August 21, 2015

Cora's birth story (part three)...

[read part one here and part two here!]

As the room filled with more of the nursing staff, I picked up bits of the conversation and realized that the on-call OB that was originally supposed to handle my delivery wasn't going to make it. A couple of the nurses were both telling me, "This baby girl wants to be born now!" I tended to agree, based on how I was feeling.

"Okay…I'm pretty sure I need to push!"

I knew that the odds of my actual OB delivering my daughter weren't very high, based on the fact that the office I go to will send whichever doctor is on call the evening you go into labor. (I knew the odds were even less in my favor on that specific day, given that I had a prenatal appointment with my OB scheduled for that morning!) The doctor who delivered Eisley was someone I hadn't met until I started pushing, so it made me realize that a good nursing staff is way more important to me than having one specific doctor there for the actual delivery.

I could tell that Cora was going to make her grand entrance momentarily, so I was grateful when they were able to bring in another OB who was there that evening. (I'm still not sure who she was exactly, and the fact that she looked younger than me felt a little bizarre.) Although there was a bit of a frenzy going on, all the nursing staff—as well as the doctor—were cheering me on and making the moment feel just as exciting as it should be. It reminded me a lot of the same point during Eisley's delivery…everyone seemed genuinely excited to meet this little baby.

As we got set to push, Jay took his place next to me and—much to everyone's surprise—Cora was born after just two pushes.

It was so quick that as she was being born I thought, Wait, that was it? She's already here? Oh, my gosh! She's so little!

The nurses immediately placed her on my chest and Jay cut the cord. We took in all her tiny features and tried to pick out which were similar to her sister's and which were all her own. There were so many different emotions this time around, to be honest. I couldn't believe she was here and that she was so perfect in every way. I couldn't help but think back to one year before when a second child seemed almost impossible, and yet…there she was, held in my arms, absolutely real.

After a while, Jay and I started to wonder when they were going to weigh her and go through the usual newborn checklist. We had certain expectations, I think, simply because just four years before we went through this with Eisley. Once we asked the nurse, we found out that there had been a few changes since our first delivery—first of which was how after a baby is born, they are immediately placed on the mom, skin-to-skin. Then the mom, dad and baby have an entire hour of uninterrupted time together.

(Well, aside from the doctor and nurses finishing up with whatever the mom needs. I mostly blocked all that out again, aside from nurses periodically pressing aggressively on my abdomen.)

I'm so grateful for that first hour we had together, though. Both Jay and I treasured those moments, and it felt so perfect and unrushed.

When they finally weighed and measured her, we discovered that although she was four days past her due date, and Eisley was born five days before hers, that Cora was actually smaller than her sister was. At only 6 lbs. 1 oz. and 18 in. long, she was a teeny tiny baby. But a perfect one.

(And I'll take a tiny baby that comes out in just two pushes any day! Can I get an amen?)

As positive as my birth experience with Eisley was overall, there were a few things that had changed since her birth that made my hospital experience with Cora even better—if that's even possible.

The hospital focuses on keeping the mother and baby together as often as possible, so in addition to the initial one-on-one time immediately following the birth, they also have the baby rooming in with the mama for the entire hospital stay. (Although Eisley did stay in my room, there was a nursery she was periodically taken to…and promptly brought back, because she screamed her little head off.) There is also just one nurse assigned to both mama and baby at any given time, which I loved. It made things feel much more simple and I liked having one nurse focusing on the both of us!

In addition to that, they offer an even greater wealth of support and resources for breastfeeding, and they no longer offer pacifiers to avoid any confusion it may or may not bring a new baby. (As a side note: We are definitely not anti-pacifier and are thrilled Cora takes one here at home, but the idea of not offering it initially at the hospital was kind of nice.) I had a lot of help getting started with breastfeeding, and although it took a couple weeks to truly get the hang of it again, I am grateful I had so much help initially. Whereas I was offered breast shields almost immediately when trying to nurse Eisley in the beginning, they weren't offered at all this time around. They really encouraged me to work with what I had and although they did provide the shields when I asked for them, they continued to help me get the hang of it without them. (And I'm so glad I didn't end up needing them this time!)

Finally, with Eisley, I had to stay a few extra days due to my blood pressure, and the medication I had to be on made me so sleepy and uncomfortable. Thankfully, I didn't run into the same issues this time around and was able to be discharged a mere 25 hours after Cora was born. I love how they have the option of heading home early, as long as mama and baby have had no complications! All I wanted was to be home, sweet home with my entire family.

Although my labor with Cora started out a little rocky, it ended up being a beautiful experience, and I couldn't be happier. Recovery this time around has been almost completely different than with Eisley, and I felt great (aside from the obvious sleepiness) by two weeks postpartum. That has been a huge blessing, because having to take care of so much (and now two children!) while recovering from labor was something I was a little worried about. But it seems like things turned out in the best way possible.

Life with a newborn—and a now four-year-old!—has been a wild ride. Some moments feel like everything is (dare I say it?) almost easy. But then there are moments when Eisley is tantruming at bedtime and Cora urps all over my last clean nursing cami and the kitchen is a disaster and Jay's clothes are all over the floor and our neighbors are having a ridiculously loud conversation and it's 92% humidity and I would kill for a basket of Olive Garden breadsticks.

But at this point, the stretches of peace and calm (as well as nighttime sleep) are getting longer and longer. And as motherhood once again works hard at humbling me something fierce, I daily thank God for what I've been given. So many good things now, and so many good things to look forward to in the years ahead of us.